From Tunatinis to Broadway and Beyond: Where ‘Oh, Hello’ Might Be Headed
Characters that are such out of control embodiments of id like Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland don’t come along every day. In fact, if they did, you could bet that George and Gil would arrange for them to mysteriously end up in the East River. Even when characters that are this oddly memorable do come along, they usually don’t stick around for as long or pop up in as many different places as these Upper Westsiders have. Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland will be the parasites that outlive the cockroaches in New York City. Better learn to love them, because they’ve proven they are not going anywhere.
In an interview to promote the characters’ recent Netflix special Oh, Hello on Broadway, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll said that they were far from done with George and Gil. If anything, it’s “only the beginning” for the bizarre pair. In lieu of this, it feels like a three-camera sitcom could be the natural progression for Faizon and St. Geegland based on the trajectory of the characters, Mulaney’s love for classical sitcoms, and Kroll’s expertise at lampooning form, plus the current relationship they’ve found themselves in with Netflix.
As bold an idea as an Oh, Hello sitcom may be, charting the history of Mulaney and Kroll’s creations helps understand why this makes sense. George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon were born when Kroll and Mulaney saw two men in turtlenecks and blazers buying separate copies of the Alan Alda book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned. After becoming fascinated with these individuals, Mulaney and Kroll channeled their obsession by hosting a comedy show as versions of these people.
The closure of the venue, Rififi, caused Oh, Hello to morph from a live act into a web series in 2008, which allowed these characters to reach a larger audience than what they were currently experiencing. The characters made regular podcast appearances in the alt comedy community and when Nick Kroll was given his own Comedy Central sketch series, Kroll Show, George and Gil were given perhaps their biggest platform yet to push tuna on unsuspecting shmucks. Not only that but the characters appeared 11 times on the show, proving that they made a lasting impression over the course of three seasons.
Kroll Show bowed out in 2015, but with that platform disappearing for Gil and George, the fire was then set under Kroll and Mulaney to think even bigger. The wheels were already in motion with Mulaney and Kroll participating in an extended hour-long in-character interview for New York’s 92Y. With the characters’ transition to off-Broadway being imminent, a slew of in-character talk show appearances were also done to further popularize the sycophants.
Finally, in December of 2015, Oh, Hello premiered off-Broadway. By September 2016 it was doing a 15-week long engagement at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, and their Netflix special hit by June of the next year. While it makes sense that this nearly two-hour take on the characters would provide their most development yet, even Mulaney and Kroll were surprised at how much they learned about their alter egos through their 138 Broadway performances. The show of course had a script in place, but the more human elements (like Gil’s relationship with Lisa the raccoon) were borne through improvisation. Most importantly, Mulaney and Kroll discovered that the show isn’t just George and Gil against the world, but rather that it can be George against Gil, too. That revelation unlocked tons for the characters and will surely continue to fuel wherever they end up next.
In the interview where Kroll and Mulaney were questioned about George and Gil’s future, they said, “We want to do something else with them, and we’re going to. We were just thinking out loud, ‘Well, that’s [Broadway] about as big as it gets for these two.’ We’re going to keep doing it even if it suffers.” As Mulaney and Kroll have both pointed out, George and Gil have never seen more fame, so sticking them in a three-camera sitcom with a live studio audience is as logical a move as anything else. Do a hackneyed riff on The Odd Couple that knows it’s a hackneyed riff on The Odd Couple. Have George and Gil turn on the audience. In the end it doesn’t even matter what they’re doing — Oh, Hello on Broadway has proven that people simply want to see George and Gil engaging with one another.
Gil and George’s rise to fame makes sense to translate into a sitcom, but it’s an even better idea considering Mulaney and Kroll’s knowledge and love of television history. Mulaney’s one-season sitcom, Mulaney, was an unfortunate misfire, but it had good intentions and was trying to embrace an older, more classical aesthetic of television. The idea of a live studio audience and a three-camera setup might not have done Mulaney any favors, but it would work perfectly with Oh, Hello’s vibe. There’s even been recent examples of this sort of experimentation on television, like on Adult Swim’s The Jack and Triumph Show or even Netflix’s very own One Day at a Time reboot. Oh, Hello undergoing the same treatment wouldn’t be that unusual.
Netflix has obviously been a good home for the duo (not to mention Mulaney’s most recent standup special also airing there) and the service has already proven that they’re open to more experimental premises and shorter runs for shows. W/ Bob and David is only four episodes long. The fourth season of Arrested Development famously shot around the availability of its cast. And as mentioned before, the network has already shown an acceptance towards live audience three-camera sitcoms with programming like Fuller House and Norman Lear’s One Day at a Time. Even though something as alternative as this would be better suited somewhere like Adult Swim, this could mark Netflix making some serious headway in that category. A post-modern, sarcastic take on Norman Lear-like sitcoms and properties like The Odd Couple with the likes of St. Geegland and Faizon would be a tremendous get for the network. And if Mulaney and Kroll could assemble half the creative talent that were present for Kroll Show, they’d already have an insanely enviable writers’ room at their disposal.
Furthermore, the project could take on an even more surreal direction by keeping the sitcom angle, but then also throwing ALF into the mix, too. ALF has been a frequent reference point for George and Gil, so seeing the duo needing to slum it in an LA apartment with the little guy while they all strive for success wouldn’t be the most insane premise for an Oh, Hello series (or maybe he’s just their quirky neighbor). The Jack and Triumph Show has already been brought up here as a reference point, but if that series can mash together two disparate entities and capitalize on the ensuing chaos, then why not Oh, Hello and ALF? ALF has somehow remained one of those few golden properties that has avoided the inevitable remake or reboot and maybe this unconventional, more adult approach to ALF’s return is exactly what the character needs. It worked for Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain after all (Note: it did not work for Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain). What’s even better is that even if all of this were to result in a terrible failure, that becomes yet another notch in George and Gil’s belts (if they can afford belts) and another story to add to their tattered resumes. There’s weirdly no way that it can fail (that is unless the series was just dreadfully boring, but that seems fairly unlikely).
Seeing an Oh, Hello sitcom materialize—with ALF or no ALF—would be a lot of fun and a smart direction to take the characters. However, even if Kroll and Mulaney stick to yearly features for Netflix or are just perpetually doing the talk show circuit and more tours, that’s more than fine. It seems clear that George and Gil control their own destinies, with Mulaney and Kroll just being the vessels to bring them forward. Whatever these curmudgeonly misanthropes decide that they should be doing next, we’ll be there along for the ride. As will the tuna.